Sunday, November 17, 2013

Isle Royale National Park 2013 | Day Five

Washington Creek / Windigo
Fog in the trees along Washington Creek

Washington Creek was amazingly silent when I got up around 9 am. Yesterday was a turning point in the weather, and we were in for a period of dreariness. Again, fog blanketed the trees and obscured the sky. We ate breakfast, then walked to Windigo to see if weather information was posted and to kill some time. Once at the visitor center, I talked to Ranger Valerie, who had already heard about our wolf sighting at Siskiwit Bay a few nights ago. I filled out a wolf sighting report, which is eventually passed on to the wolf-moose study team. 
Washington Harbor
We walked around the Windigo area for a while looking at Washington Harbor, which looked very cool in the fog. There was a group of five or six guys hanging around the dock. They had been scheduled to leave the island on the sea plane the day before, but the plane had been unable to fly due to the fog. They were now on their 2nd day of being stranded, and it did not look like they would be leaving today either. The weather forecast was not promising; there was a 50% chance of rain, and the fog was not going anywhere. The stranded hikers were sticking close to the dock in the event they got lucky. If the fog cleared and the plane flew in, at least some of them would be able to go home. 
Windigo Visitor Center
The Windigo store had closed the day before. We hoped that the stranded guys had some extra food with them. This was one of the scenarios that we had prepared for when planning this trip, and we were glad we had a few extra things with us in case we ended up in the same situation. The owner of the store was in the area taking care of things and preparing to close up shop for the season. Although the store was closed, she let us buy a few items. We grabbed a few snacks (I felt like I had hit the jackpot with a small box of fig newtons), and now that we had some extra room in our packs, we decided to buy one of the large canisters of fuel that was left on the shelf so we didn't have to be so conservative with our fuel supply in light of the lack of dry wood available.

Washington Harbor
It was still early in the day, and we had yet to decide whether to hike to Huginnin Cove or stay put due to the sketchy weather. I was really looking forward to seeing Huginnin Cove and was hoping for good weather while we were there since we would be staying in our tent close to shore. The weather forecast for the following day claimed a 40% chance of rain – no guarantee, but a little more promising, and we decided to hold out another day and keep our fingers crossed for a rain-free tomorrow.
Washington Harbor
The Voyageur II, the small passenger ferry that sails from Grand Portage, MN, showed up in the early afternoon with a few new visitors. Out of desperation, all but one of the stranded hikers decided to leave the island via this boat. The problem with this is that Grand Portage, MN is a very tiny town near the Canadian border without much in the way of helpful resources for people who were supposed to be flying back to Houghton, MI – approximately 7 hours away by car. The town does not appear to have a car rental facility (please correct me if I'm wrong, Grand Portagers); we have no idea what these guys planned to do once they arrived. They must have needed to leave badly enough that they decided they had no choice and would figure it out. 
The only moose we saw this day - Windigo Visitor Center
Barely 30 minutes after the Voyageur II sailed away from the dock, the sky suddenly cleared. Within minutes, the sea plane flew into the harbor. The Voyageur's passengers likely heard it, as they probably were not yet far enough away to be out of earshot of the small plane's distinct sound. What a kick in the nards. The plane landed and took off immediately after picking up the one fortunate guy who had held out. The clear sky was short-lived. The fog quickly returned, once again preventing the plane from flying for the rest of the day.
The sun breaks through, but just briefly around 8pm

We spent the remainder of the day around our shelter, relaxing and watching for moose. No luck there, but I saw what I think was an osprey dive into the creek to catch a fish. We ate Backpacker's Pantry Spinach Puttanesca for dinner and watched the sun struggle to pierce the clouds over Washington Creek. Rabbits were very active after dark, jumping on top of our picnic table and bounding through our site.

To be continued in: Day 6 - Washington Creek to Huginnin Cove

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